United Airlines and Qantas are racing to be the first to operate non-stop flights between Los Angeles, California, and Melbourne, Australia.

Just hours after United announced that daily Boeing 747-400 flights will begin on 6 December, Qantas responded with a plan to launch five weekly flights on the new route in mid-October, making it the first to fly non-stop from Melbourne to the USA. Schedules are based on 13.5h northbound and almost 15h southbound.

Qantas operates 17 non-stop Los Angeles flights a week from Sydney, while Air New Zealand and United each fly seven. United says its Los Angeles-Sydney services will be unchanged, while Qantas expects soon to announce changes to its schedules.

United also operates seven nonstop Sydney-San Francisco flights, and industry sources believe that Qantas, which dropped its San Francisco services in March 1994, is to announce plans to reintroduce direct flights to its key hub.

Qantas is to take delivery of three new 747-400s and one Boeing 767-300 over the next year, and is hiring 500 more flight attendants. Both will offer a three-class configuration, with reclining sleeper seats in first class, and upgraded long-haul business and economy seating.

Source: Flight International